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Children's Literature Reviews
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The borning room
Paul Fleischman.
New York, NY : HarperCollins, c1991.
101 p. ; 22 cm.


"Ages 11 up"--Jacket.
"A Charlotte Zolotow book."
Lying at the end of her life in the room where she was born in 1851, Georgina remembers what it was like to grow up on the Ohio frontier.

Best Books:

Best First Novels for Youth, 1991 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, Oct. 1, 1991 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1991 ; American Library Association; United States
Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Twelfth Edition, 1995 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1991 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Horn Book Fanfare, 1991 ; Horn Book; United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1991 ; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books, 1992 ; Association for Library Service to Children; United States
Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1991 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 1991 ; Cahners; United States
Teachers' Choices, 1992 ; International Reading Association; United States
YALSA Best Books for Youth, 1992 ; American Library Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Golden Kite Award, 1992 Honor Book Fiction United States
Jefferson Cup Award, 1992 Worthy of Special Note Virginia

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1993 ; Nominee; Kentucky
MRA Reader's Choice Award, 1997 ; Nominee; Grades 9-12; Michigan
South Carolina Junior Book Award, 1994 ; Nominee; South Carolina

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 5
Accelerated Reader Points 3
Accelerated Vocabulary


Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Oct. 1, 1991 (Vol. 88, No. 3))
The plain words of Newbery Award winner Fleischman speak of commonplace things that hold the universe. "Like a bird held in cupped hands," the bed in the borning room next to the kitchen is set aside for giving birth and for dying in Georgina's Ohio family house built by her grandfather. She was born there in 1851 (she makes her mother tell the story of it two dozen times, two thousand times), and she remembers how most of her life's "turnings" have taken place there. With the assistance of a fugitive slave, she helps her brother get born in that room. She sees her freethinking grandfather die there. As she grows up, she watches her mother die in childbirth from the bungled use of the new wonder drug chloroform. With the help of the schoolmaster she will marry, Georgina saves her brother from diphtheria. In a climactic episode, she gives birth there, and feels herself reborn "slippery, changeable, shapeless as a river," feels that's she's become her mother giving birth to Georgina, even as she recognizes her mother's face in the new baby she holds. The image of hands reaching out for each other is in every episode, whether it's the infant's instinctive clutching of a finger, or Grandfather's memory of shaking hands with Benjamin Franklin, or the way men at a barn raising "fit the joints together like clasped hands" (every single word in that phrase means connection). Intensely personal as it is, the borning-room experience is also a microcosm. From the Underground Railroad and the Civil War to the suffragettes and the rise of technology, outside events are inextricably bound up with individual lives in the family--which is what the best historical fiction always shows. Rooted in the chores and natural cycle of the farm, Georgina also learns to look outward and to read: like her mother she can swing an ax and catch a pig, but she's able to identify the English poets "as easily as she could name the forest flowers." Rebirth comes through connection and loving memory and through art. And it comes through stories, like this one. Category: Middle Readers. 1991, HarperCollins, $13.95 and $13.89. Gr. 5 and up. Starred Review.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1991)
From an innovative, highly talented novelist and poet (Joyful Noise, 1989 Newbery Award), a quiet cycle of episodes from the life of Georgina Lott, born on her father's Ohio farm in 1851 and eventually revealed to be narrating from her deathbed in the same little room, 67 years later. Meanwhile, other births and deaths have occurred there in the "borning room." Zeb is brought into the world with the help of an escaping slave whom Georgina has hidden without her parents' knowledge, hoping--at eight--to save them from the dire penalties for harboring a runaway. Grandfather, who loved the maple still visible through the window and who once shook hands with Franklin (whose pithy sayings the family enjoys), dies in peace despite the harassment of a zealous preacher. With an inexperienced doctor and a new drug (chloroform), Mama dies in childbirth, but the child survives--then and later, during a diphtheria epidemic. When she marries, Georgina recalls her mother, planning to "raise my children to love the words and music and to oppose injustice. I would bring her hack to life by becoming her." Soon after, she bears a daughter. Memorable characters and valuable glimpses of social history in a beautifully crafted novel. More important, there's much to ponder: the powerful continuity of talents, values, and ideas that can link generations; the real basics, life and death, habitually concealed in contemporary America. Not showy, but deeply rewarding. 1991, HarperCollins, $13.95; PLB $13.89. Starred Review. © 1991 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Borning rooms, common in many early American homes, were located off the kitchen and reserved for births, illnesses and deaths. Here the room serves as a kind of touchstone, a central symbol for the story of Georgina Lott. Fleischman's first-person narrative can best be described as a series of snapshots of a 19th-century life. He fast-forwards through history--from pre-Civil War days and the Underground Railroad through the First World War--as readers see Georgina at her birth, at eight, with her little brother's arrival (and a brief look at the injustices of slavery) and so on, through her own marriage, the birth of her first daughter and, finally, facing her own death. This workmanlike tale is frustratingly brief, flitting from one incident to the next with only scant looks at the historic underpinnings of each episode. Fleischman's prose, while fluid as ever, never catches fire the way it did in his recent Saturnalia . Ages 11-up. (Sept.)


Frontier and pioneer life--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.F59918 Bo 1991
91004432 [Fic]
0060237627 : $13.95 ($18.95 CDN)
0060237856 (lib. bdg.)
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